Have you ever been old? Well, me neither but I think I’m getting there. And fast. I suppose I always knew it would eventually happen, I just wasn’t supposing “eventually” would happen so soon. Or even in my lifetime. But it did. I’ve never been this old before so I’m not really sure what to expect.

I got up the other morning and saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Startled myself. Wondered if I had died in my sleep and just hadn’t fully realized that fact yet. Must have lain funny on the pillow overnight. That would explain all the lines and wrinkles now appearing on my face. When did I get a corduroy pillow?

Maybe all this aging didn’t exactly happen overnight but it sure seems that way. I blame the laws of physics for most of the changes I’ve been noticing. All these years of exposure to gravity have wrought their effects on my body. Long term gravity exposure has pushed the once thick, wavy locks on my noggin down through my scalp leaving my hair visibly thinner on top while pushing the opposite ends out through my ears and nose.

This decades-long exposure to gravity is also compressing my body and the excess seems to be congregating around my waist, pushing me further into my trousers. I used to wear pants smaller in the waist and longer in length but now that’s reversed. I’ve even seen old people who have compressed so much into themselves that their waistlines are now up to their chests.

I’m also starting to notice my memory isn’t what it used to be. I think my internal memory card, my RAM, is reaching its limit. I can remember the words to school yard limericks but can’t always readily recall what I had for dinner the other night.

I can usually skip breakfast these days, too, because I’m so full from all the medications and supplements I’ve started taking each morning. So, instead of breakfast in bed, I’m more inclined to have dinner in bed.

I don’t eat as much as I used to either, I guess my metabolism is slowing down like everything else these days. Except the calendar; that seems to be speeding up. Feels like Christmas and tax day happen every few weeks.

And birthdays come quicker, too. But even with the accelerated birthdays, I don’t feel like I’m getting that much older. My friends and family certainly are, though. My older brother is nearly as old as our mother now. Weird. And my son, he’ll be catching up to me soon the way things are going.

If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. Then again, probably not. When you’re young, you don’t think you’ll ever be old. Old people? They just keep popping up somehow; you don’t believe you’ll ever turn into one.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve noticed some advantages to getting old. Once your hair thins and grays, and your face drips down into your neck, there’s a lot less that people expect of you.

You don’t have to keep your appearance picture perfect all of the time. Being slightly disheveled is not only expected but an easier look to maintain. There are senior discounts, you can say you’ve seen all of the really cool bands live and you used to actually drive some of those cars at the vintage car show.

So, my younger readers, when you see an old person on the street, know that you’re actually seeing into the future and that one day, this will be you.

There’s no mythical, eternal spring spitting out old folks, it’s just what you and your friends will turn into. So be nice, be respectful and be patient with old folk you come across. Someday, before you realize it, that old person will be you and when your yin meets your yang, you’ll want karma to look favorably upon you.

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(2) comments

ronzim

Hi Mark. I am old enough to be your father and have made a few observations on this matter. Mrs. Shatner’s little boy Billie has peered down from an airborne cigar tube at our terraqueous little planet and seen light and life in all their beauty. Opposite, he saw the immensity of blackness and death and has made a somewhat liquid report on what science has known for decades. That’s the whole enchilada. Quod est ibi.

My keyboard is not stroked by a monolith called a homo Sapiens. Nothing is as it seems because granularity reigns supreme. On this chair reposes a collection of about 6.5 octillion atoms which have coalesced into a brief cooperating colony possessing three attributes – self-organization, replication, and metabolism – which define life. Uh, me. Recently, these atoms were all somewhere else, with some not even yet generated by stellar fusion. Soon they will all again be somewhere else, not thus coalesced, and I will be no more. We al swim in the same river.

I posit you this analogy: Time does not flow but is the medium in which we all so briefly exist (space-time that is). It therefore comprises the riverbed along which something actually does flow – all the atoms in the universe. This inexorable river of atoms is pocked with excruciatingly brief eddies where conditions are ripe for life in the form of living cells. All our lives are formed in these eddies. The rapid disaggregation of our cells is assured by our individual Hayflick limit which is the rate at which cells divide to provide growth and repair DNA damage before the onset of senescence when the ratio of new cells to dead cells falls below one and we begin to die. All the atoms upstream and downstream of these eddies are the same – non-living; thus, there is no difference in my status from a million years ago and a million years from now. Oblivion in both cases. Frankly, I could use the rest. The attributes of sentience, self-awareness, memory, and contemplation are present only in living brain cells. Dead cells register nothing. There are three exceptions: Stupidity is forever; cheese, wherein milk achieves immortality; and government bureaux.

Some insist that the superstitions of our ancestors are true. They incorporate magic into the natural order and denigrate those who refute it, sometimes more vigorously than I hope you can imagine. The concept of “soul”, however, was made up out of whole cloth and cannot be defined as to its composition, origin, or location, except for dogs who do go to heaven.

I make bold to say that while I am not immortal, according to the first law of thermodynamics I am eternal. My extant little pile of atoms will dissipate into the river and go on without me, forever.

“If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.” John Kenneth Galbraith

MountainMark

I always love reading your comments to various opinion pieces and in this instance, you've constructed quite an impressive mountain out of my tiny mole hill of a story! Keep up the good work!

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